Beauty spot parking charges set to stay

PARKING charges which appear to have driven thousands of visitors away from a popular beauty spot are set to stay - despite growing calls for them to be scrapped.

By John Howard

PARKING charges which appear to have driven thousands of visitors away from a popular beauty spot are set to stay - despite growing calls for them to be scrapped.

Mid Suffolk District Council started charging people to park at Needham Lake in May this year in a bid to raise about £10,000, despite an outcry from many within the local community.

But a report discussed by councillors on Monday evening revealed the anticipated income by the end of the year could be as low as £5,000 - and no more than £7,000.


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And the report, written by countryside officer David Hughes, said the number of motorists calling in at the lake had fallen from 47,015 between June and August last year, when it was free to park, to 40,291 in the same period this year.

Andrew Stringer, a Green opposition district councillor who serves on the committee that discussed the charges this week , said he wanted the tariffs scrapped.

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“The administration wants to see a full year and they believe it's been quite a success,” he said.

“They agreed a 7,000 shortfall in visitor numbers is the tip of the iceberg, because people are driving in, seeing the charges, and driving straight out.

“The administration are resolute, even thought it's not gaining half the income they said. If I ran my business this way, it would not be showing a profit.

“It's very frustrating. Instead of imposing the car parking charges we would have put a small log cabin there, a visitor centre selling refreshments which would have made more money than this.

“There was the opportunity to scrap car parking charges and do this, it's regrettable. I think there has been a missed opportunity here.”

Wendy Marchant, a Liberal Democrat district councillor who represents the town, has also spoken out, saying she never wanted the charges introduced in the first place.

But Conservative councillors felt it was too early to assess the situation before the new system had been running a year, and argued the charges reaped money from people from outside the district who otherwise would not be contributing to the lake's upkeep.

A spokeswoman for the Conservative/Independent-run district council said: “It was decided that car parking charges remain the same, at 50p for up to two hours and £1 for all day until a full year has passed.

“Then a report will be brought back to councillors with a better picture. Car parking charges were introduced there on May 20, so we will discuss this again in about June next year.”

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